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Soldiers Home, Raleigh, N.C.

Soldiers Home_web

Our Flashback Friday postcard this week features a now largely forgotten Raleigh landmark — the North Carolina Confederate Soldiers’ Home.

Soldiers Home_back_web

No message this week!

So let’s take a visit to the ‘old soldiers home’ and learn how it came to be.

Establishing a Home for ‘Maimed, Disabled and Indigent Heroes of the Lost Cause’

The idea to establish a home for indigent and infirm former Confederate soldiers first emerged at a meeting of veterans in Raleigh in 1881. They formed the Society of Ex-Confederate Soldiers and Sailors of North Carolina.

Then, in 1884, another group of prominent veterans, headed by former Civil War era Governor and later US Senator Zebulon Vance, organized the North Carolina Confederate Home Association, with the goal of raising funds for the “accommodation” of Confederate veterans who had no one to care for them.

Finally, in 1889, the Confederate Veterans Association was formed to establish a brick and mortar place of refuge for the ‘indigent heroes of the Lost Cause.’ Following a fundraising campaign led by the Wake County Ladies Memorial Association and the North Carolina Daughters of the Confederacy, a temporary veterans’ home was established in a rented house at the corner of Bloodworth and Polk Streets in 1890.

In 1891 the state legislature deeded to the Soldiers’ Home Association the property comprising the former Camp Russell, a Confederate training camp, and the wartime Pettigrew Hospital on which to erect a permanent campus.

State Archives of North Carolina photo

State Archives of North Carolina photo

This photo of the Confederate Soldiers’ home was taken sometime in the first decade of the 20th century. Left to right are seen the chapel, dormitories and hospital.

The Confederate Soldiers’ Home opened on New Bern Avenue, east of the city limits, in May 1891. The campus included two large dormitories, a kitchen and dining hall, a hospital building, and a chapel. Between 1891 and 1926 nearly 1,500 North Carolina Confederate veterans passed through the doors of the old soldiers home. Upon death, many of them were interred in Raleigh’s Confederate Cemetery.

The End of an Era

During the 1930s, as the old soldiers aged and passed away, the population at the home dwindled. In 1938 the last occupant, Walter Barfield, aged 94, left to live out his final years with family members.

Photo courtesy The News & Observer

Photo courtesy The News & Observer

In 1938, Walter Barfield, the last occupant of the Confederate Soldiers’ Home, stands on the hospital steps with his suitcase and commemorative Confederate flag.

For the next 10 years the property was used as a local youth camp, and the former hospital building became the Raleigh Recreational Center. In 1948 the site was vacated, and the buildings demolished.

The old soldiers’ home property is still owned by the state of North Carolina; I wonder how many of our Goodnight Raleigh readers know what state agency occupies the site today.

 

This week’s Flashback Friday color-tinted halftone postcard was published by F.M. Kirby, of Wilkes-Barre, PA

Fred Morgan Kirby 1887-1997 Wilkes-Barre, PA

A publisher and large retailer of postcard views of the American South and mid-Atlantic region. These cards were sold from their Five & Dimes stores which numbered 96 in 1912. Fred Morgan Kirby: An American Five and Dime Pioneer.

 

“Flashback Friday” is a weekly feature of Goodnight, Raleigh! in which we showcase vintage postcards depicting our historic capital city. We hope you enjoy this week end treat!


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